I have a few hundred messages that are all mostly identical. Each message has one of the following strings in the message body.

foo:1 (bar)
foo:2 (bar)

I would like to find all messages with the first string, but not the second.

I have tried everything I can think of in both the quick and advanced search functions in Outlook 2010. In particular, all of the following search terms return messages with foo:2 (bar).

"foo:1 (bar)"
"foo:1 "
"1 (bar)"
"1 "
"1 \(bar\)"

Here's an example screenshot showing what I'm talking about:

enter image description here

The two messages that are found both have message bodies corresponding to their subject lines.

How can I find these messages using Outlook search?

  • your screenshot shows Message not Subject ... consider showing us what the messages are, not what the subjects are. Mar 25, 2021 at 21:44
  • @undrline-ReinstateMonica This question is seven years old. I'm no longer using Outlook 2010, I don't have access to this mailbox anymore, and I solved my problem manually seven years ago. But, as I said in the question, the bodies of the messages were the same as the subjects for the two sample messages. But my entire inbox was found as well, and I definitely did not have foo:1 (bar) in every inbox message. Mar 26, 2021 at 12:36

4 Answers 4


Try using


It's not obvious, but if you use quotes you can also precede them with a comparison operator. This comparison operator with the tilde means 'has this substring'.

You can also use more normal comparisons, like <, but they are not generally very useful.

  • I cannot find any reference for comparison operators in outlook search. Does anyone know of a decent list of all the operators available?
    – Sam Hasler
    Aug 1, 2022 at 15:09
  • what version of outlook does ~="substring" work in? I'm using 365 and it doesn't appear to work
    – Sam Hasler
    Aug 1, 2022 at 15:16

You must use Advanced Find (CTRL+SHIFT+F), using the Advanced Tab (pictured below), to search for special characters. Instant Search ignores special characters.

Advanced Find Advanced Tab

  • I mentioned in my question that I have tried using both instant and advanced search functions. Neither works. Aug 26, 2014 at 13:16
  • The title makes the question sound like a "how to search for special characters" type question. It sounds like you're looking for messages that include A but not B. Assuming these values are known/constant, why not use Advanced Find's Condition field in the Advanced tab and search where "Contains='foo:1 (bar)'" and "Doesn't Contain='foo:2 (bar)'" ?
    – root
    Aug 26, 2014 at 13:24
  • I am doing exactly that. Advanced Find is still coming back with messages that contain foo:2 (bar). Aug 26, 2014 at 13:36
  • 1
    If you don't believe me, here's a screenshot. Each message has a body with the corresponding subject in it, but you can see both are coming back in the search. More than that, everything in my Inbox is coming back. I assure you they don't ALL contain foo:1 (bar). Aug 26, 2014 at 13:53
  • @KrisHarper your screenshot shows Message not Subject ... consider showing us what the messages are. Mar 11, 2021 at 18:47

[using Microsoft Outlook for Microsoft 365 Enterprise at my company, Version 2008 (Build 13127.21348)]

Trythe following:

  1. Within Outlook, select Search > Search Tools > Advanced Find
  2. In the Appointments and Meetings tab Search for the word(s): field enter the word (including special characters) you are trying to find (e.g. Training:)
  3. In the More Choices tab, select the Match case checkbox
  4. Click the Find now button

This gave me the results I wanted. I was looking only for "training" events I had completed where I put "Training:" in the Subject. Using the Match case checkbox forced the search to include the colon.

Hope this helps!


Outlook search doesn't work, apparently, so I went through every message manually and categorized them by sight.

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